Perspectives | Elections2021

What were the elections like for Kosovo Serbs?

By - 16.02.2021

Same script, same players.

The eighth parliamentary elections in Kosovo — which took place on Sunday, February 14 —were marked by the COVID-19 pandemic but also by the majority of Albanians expecting a change to happen.

While these expectations were confirmed by Vëtevendojse getting around 48% of votes (as of this writing), some other expectations were confirmed as well. The Serb community in Kosovo will, once again, be represented by just one political party — Srpska Lista (“The Serbian List”). 

If we try to summarize this electoral campaign and elections from the point of view of a Serb voter, many would say nothing much has happened nor was much expected. Starting from the point that Serbs were represented by three main political parties: Srpska Lista, Srpski demokratski savez (“The Serbian Democratic Alliance”) and Inicijativa za slobodu, pravdu i opstanak (“Initiative for Freedom, Justice and Survival”), it was well known before the elections who would take the 10 seats guaranteed for Serbs in the Kosovo parliament. 

Since Srpska Lista assured its monopoly over Serb representation long time ago, through constant support from the Serbian government and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić but also because of almost nonexistent opposition among other Serb parties — nothing less was expected than one more Srpska Lista celebration. 

Increased turnout

The glorification of Srpska Lista’s victory was further supported by voter turnout. According to information from Srpska Lista, 5% more Kosovo Serbs voted in this year’s elections compared to the previous election. Once again, regardless of anti-COVID-19 measures, we saw huge groups of people following leaders of Srpska Lista, going to vote all together. How and why they gathered remains unclear, but it wasn’t spontaneous. One can hardly explain how this turnout exactly happened, as nothing different has been offered to Kosovo Serbs, but rather almost the same, or even less, than every other election. 

Even though Serbs in Kosovo didn’t expect anything different, it was quite expected that the campaign would be harsh, and a bit violent as usual. Somehow, it didn’t repeat this time. This peaceful campaign was probably the first, since Serbs took part in Kosovo elections. There was no open violence, no tearing of campaign posters down, but also no big noise in the media, and of course, no big campaign gatherings. While the lack of gatherings was caused by the measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, this — so to say — peaceful campaign was either a product of no real opponents to fight against or a predetermined scenario and winners. 

When will the wind of change blow North?

When we look back on the election behind us, and one more “historic” victory of Srpska Lista, one must ask when this “wind of change” that blows over Kosovo politics will come to the North? Since it was created in Belgrade, Srpska Lista has rarely found an opponent among other Serb political parties. 

Because they are in a political buffer zone, neither in Serbia nor in Kosovo, Serbs choose to be linked to one "right" political party.

Up until Oliver Ivanović was murdered two years ago, his political party was seen as the only one that could oppose Srpska Lista. Since 2018, that is no longer the case. After Ivanović’s death, his political party lost its previous influence and even began running in elections together with Srpska Lista. The other political parties reflect the situation in Serbia: No strong and consistent opposition, a lack of leadership and some strange lethargy and lack of motivation that has taken over Serb youth. Now they are mostly aiming to leave Kosovo rather than getting involved in political life. 

When one observes the overall voting motivation among Kosovo Serbs, it could easily be said that there are no ideologies, principles nor politics to follow. To Serb voters, only one political party has served as the “right” one and it is the only one that would be supported by the Serbian government. Freedom of choice is something that has been taken from Kosovo Serbs a long time ago. The entire electoral process for Serbs is seen as something predestined, with familiar speeches, actions, and follow ups. Same old script, same old players. 

A decade lost

Unfortunately, this nondemocratic situation is not something that Kosovo Serbs are facing for the very first time. It’s something that has been around for many years in the past decade, and something that doesn’t seem to be ending. Many would ask why not to fight it? Why not oppose it and create a situation where there is at least, in the 21st century, in Europe, freedom of choice? The answer could be found in the simple saying “it is not as easy as it seems.” Would Serbs like to change it? Must probably yes. Can they actually do it? In this situation, most probably no. 

Whether Serb official representatives find a place in the Kurti-led government is still unknown.

Serbs in Kosovo are strongly dependent on the Serbian government and its politics. By receiving salaries, pensions and other financial income, because they are in a political buffer zone, neither in Serbia nor in Kosovo, Serbs choose to be linked to one “right” party. Therefore, by longing for different kinds of support, such as financial, medical or educational, a feeling of belonging to Serbia, and dependency on the Serbian government, Kosovo Serbs found themselves in a situation that has everything — except democracy. 

No room for outsiders

Finally, just after Election Day, when we are all aware that Albin Kurti will be the new prime minister, the question of Serb participation in the new Kosovo government is still on the table. Recalling the previous experience that Kurti had with Srpska Lista when they took part in Government but didn’t support it; and the fact that Nenad Rašić, leader of the Progressive Democratic Party and former Minister of Labor and Social Welfare in the Kosovo government, was seen with Kurti during the campaign; whether Serb official representatives find a place in the Kurti- led government is still unknown.

One cannot easily say if the participation of Srpska Lista in the government actually brings something to Kosovo Serbs.

Srpska Lista, during the last Kurti government ended up voting no-confidence when he was prime minister, helping overthrow his government. So Nenad Rašić seems to be more appealing to Vëtevendosje and its leader.

From the perspective of Kosovo Serbs, Nenad Rašić is a politician who is not well known, but most of all, somebody who is not supported by Serbia. For some years already, Rašić has been portrayed in pro-government Serbian media as a person who supports an independent Kosovo, therefore not welcomed to represent Serbs in Kosovo’s parliament or government.

Further, as a Serb leader in Kosovo that is not a member of Srpska Lista, Rašić has never been approved by Serbia, but rather targeted as a traitor as are many others. Finally, as long as Srpska Lista has a monopoly over the political representation of Kosovo Serbs, over the media and the decision-making processes, any other Serb political leader will be marginalized regardless of their potential or opportunity to bring possible benefits for Serbs living in Kosovo. 

One cannot easily say if the participation of Srpska Lista in the government actually brings something to Kosovo Serbs. Following the constitution, Serbs should have a representative in government. Should it be someone from Srpska Lista? Or someone chosen by Kurti? At the end of the day it is the same for Kosovo Serbs — they didn’t select anyone or choose them on their own. 

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.